Special Education Funding and Equity: Two Big Weeks for NCSECS and for Children with Disabilities in Charter Schools

by Paul O'Neill

The National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools (NCSECS)  is both pleased and a bit exhausted to announce that in each of the past two weeks it has released a major research paper.   

On November 4th the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools published a paper authored by NCSECS entitled “Getting Lost While Trying to Follow the Money: Special Education Finance in Charter Schools.” Our study of how special education is funded in charter schools is the first state by state analysis of this crucial and poorly understood issue. Even a quick look reveals that funding formulas vary considerably state to state, as do funding levels.  The paper also offers case studies, drilling down on the processes in three representative states – Arizona, Colorado and New York. It is our hope that this finance paper will provide crucial baseline information for charter leaders across the country to understand the funding mechanisms in their states and to ensure they are receiving all of the funds to which they are entitled. You can find the paper here.

On November 10th, NCSECS issued a paper entitled “Key Trends in Special Education in Charter Schools: A Secondary Analysis of the Civil Rights Data Collection 2011–2012.” This report is the culmination of two years of research into the Civil Rights Data Collection compiled and maintained by the United States Department of Education.  That resource contains data on how students with disabilities access and enroll in public schools, both charter and traditional.  Our analysis makes key findings – such as that while charter schools consistently enroll fewer students with disabilities than do traditional public schools, charters also serve special education students in more inclusive settings than do those traditional schools. For full report click here.

Lauren Morando Rhim, Executive Director of NCSECS, took the lead on both of the papers. Both have been in the works for quite some time and it is gratifying (as well as a relief) to have them launched and out in the world.  We cannot promise a similar level of productivity every week… but we hope that these research papers help to fill the large need for data on where and how students with disabilities access charter schools. We hope that these papers are both illuminating in themselves and also foster additional research and analysis.